As I write this, we are in the second full week of the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Tests or FCATs as they are commonly known. If you count the pretests done a week before the FCATs started, we are actually into week three of four straight weeks of testing for Florida students. Am I the only one who sees something wrong with this picture?
First and foremost, I see absolutely no sense in having students spend a month in testing. This is time that is not available for learning. Add to this month all the OTHER testing that is done during the school year and you start to see how we have turned the process of education on its head, all in the name of accountability.
Pearson, Inc., the company handling the online FCAT testing for Florida, apparently had a computer glitch yesterday that prevented students in a number of counties from completing the day’s testing.
Online testing assumes that EVERYTHING works perfectly: The computers used for the tests, the proctor cache computers that cache the tests at each school, each school’s internal computer network, each school’s connection to the Internet, Pearson’s connection to the Internet, and Pearson’s servers themselves. Break any one of these, and the tests crash. The entire system is no better than the weakest link.
If you are computing locally, a loss of Internet connectivity is not the end of the world. If you are depending on a remote host and either you or the remote host experiences connectivity problems, you are out of business for the duration. I’ve advised my clients to go slow on transitioning to cloud services for exactly this reason.
I believe two things need to happen in Florida:
First, we need to consider going back to paper and number two lead pencils. Computer scanned tests worked well in the 60’s and 70’s when I was in school and they still work. We hold our elections using optically scanned ballots and they seem to work just fine.
Secondly, we need to completely rethink what we are doing to our children by scheduling weeks on end of standardized tests, regardless of the technology we use for those tests.
I’m all for holding teachers and schools accountable for their part in educating our children, but we seem to have gone overboard with the current testing scheme.
What do you think?
Rob Marlowe, Senior Geek
Gulfcoast Networking, Inc.
(Rob’s comments here are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Gulfcoast Networking, Inc., or the City of New Port Richey.)